Thursday, March 5, 2009

The most valuable thing for my stock career right now

The most valuable thing, right now, for my business success

I often ask myself “what is the most valuable thing I can do right now for my business success?” As a stock photographer my immediate answer is: “Create more images!” But I don’t think that is really the correct answer. In my particular situation, and possibly yours too, the answer is to get my work in front of more potential buyers.

To buy it, they have to see it

My reasoning is as follows: If enough people see mediocre or even poor work it will sell. If I create the best work in the world and nobody sees it, it won’t sell. I do have a body of work, and I do think it is, at least, better than average. If I want to increase my income would it be better to create more work that is increasingly hard to find in the over-supplied market of today, or would it be smarter for me to increase the visibility of my work, an effort that would also boost any new work that I create in the future?

If they don’t see it, it doesn’t exist

I have many images that I think would sell if an art director became familiar with them. It is kind of like that old saying “If a tree falls in the forest, and nobody hears it, does it make noise?” For example, I recently shot a series of Sumo wrestler images that combine drama and humor. In one pose the Sumo wrestler is squared off with a businessman. This is a great image to illustrate any product or service that allows small businesses to effectively compete with large ones. But how many art directors, designers or photo editors know that this image exists? How many would even think to search under “Sumo” if they were looking for an image to solve this visual problem with? If they don’t see it, it doesn’t exist!

It quickly becomes very clear to me that the problem of visibility is the primary problem facing me in my stock career. Should I rely on Getty, Corbis and others to solve that problem? That would be a resounding no. My problem is not their problem. As with so many things, being proactive is the way to get the best results in this case.

What to do?

Long term I think it is important, as a stock photographer, to build your brand. It is important to create awareness in the potential users of stock photography that your work deserves special attention. In the short term, I think it is important to get your work in front of them. In both cases, the vehicle by which you can do that effectively and with relatively little cost is through your web presence.

The answer

In my case, I have decided that the most important steps I need to take right now to insure my continued success in stock is to keep improving my web site in terms of both search engine optimization and in getting more and more of my work up on the site. It is an inherently slow process. Uploading and key wording my stock pictures is a laborious process. Tonight I will be watching Survivor on TV while I use my laptop to enter Meta data for those stock photos.

Four months ago I started this process of making my web site truly work for my stock career. At that time I was getting about one person a week to my site. Now I am up to close to 200 a day. My goal is to get over 10,000 people a day, heck, maybe 20,000 a day (Dan Heller is getting over 20,000 a day). The progress is agonizingly slow, but it is also very real. In the last four months I have sold several prints, made enough off of Google Ads to pay for my hosting, and am aware of at least 2 stock sales through the agencies that were referred from my site. There may well have been many more, but I cannot track that. I have also handle a couple of transactions myself for images that are on my site but are not handled by other stock agencies. Like I said, slow, but encouraging!

To sum it up

I am certainly not quitting making new stock images. Far from it. I have actually increased my efficiency at creating images and create new stock photos on at least a weekly basis. But I realize that right now the best thing I can do to bolster my career is to continue to optimize my site in order to establish my “brand” and get my work in front of more buyers (licensees).